Offsite construction, now commonly referred to as prefabrication is an emerging worldwide trend, it potentially represents the biggest change to the built environment for generations. Pre-fabrication in Sweden represents 40% of residential buildings, whilst Japan are steadily increasing their adoption to 16%, currently the UK’s offsite construction accounts for less than 10% with upfront costs and poor quality perception from the public being initial barriers for development.
However during the last 18 months, announcements of major offsite construction initiatives have included L&G’s modular housebuilding factory in Yorkshire and the China National Building Material Company’s (CNBM) investment into an offsite construction facility in Gloucestershire starts a £2.5 billion investment into the UK.
A recent survey and study by CITB cited 49% of the companies’ surveyed plan to increase their offsite construction, the key drivers of growth for offsite construction include:
- Potential for increased productivity and less waste
- Potential for reduced whole life costs
- Potential for greater predictability (cost/time)
- Less time on site reduces health & safety risks
- Can be a more sustainable solution and produce greater energy efficiency for the building
- Skills shortage and ageing workforce among traditional trades (negative sector image)
- Desire for increased automation (robotics, 3D printing) and new materials developed
However there are some signification barriers to growth, Mark Farmer Founding Director & CEO at Cast (A Real Estate & Construction Consultancy), who was commissioned by the Construction Leadership Council to undertake a review of the UK’s construction labour model, outlines the challenges.
“There are, of course, a number of challenges to the growth of offsite. However, one of the biggest potential drags on the UK fully capitalising on the rise of offsite construction would be an inadequately trained workforce. We need a more flexible skillset across construction to adapt to the dynamic demands of offsite construction. The growth of offsite has seen a blurring of the lines between manufacturing, engineering and construction, creating the need for new skills and redefining existing ones. We need to not only train new entrants in a range of new skills, but also upskill our existing workforce. The digitalisation of the construction industry and the link that provides to offsite also offers a chance to attract a new cohort of skilled workers.”
Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be looking at the different skill sets across the complete built environment lifecycle, pre-build, build and post build and how workers within this sector need to adapt their skills to accommodate future trends.